Aug. 6 – Finding certified teachers has become more difficult than before, area superintendents said.
“When I first went to Warner in 2001, I had 75 basic applications on my desk for any position I had,” said Monte Madewell, now superintendent of Checotah Public Schools. “Now if we have an elementary position, I have to call and ask if there is anyone who has any applications.”
Hilldale Superintendent Erik Puckett said “a lot of teachers don’t want to be teachers anymore.”
“We’re very lucky in our openings if we get a certified candidate,” Puckett said. “Even in the last five years it was difficult in some subjects such as special education or foreign languages, math and science. It has progressed now where we are struggling to get certified primary teachers. “
Muskogee Public Schools communications director Brandon Irby said MPS opened 18 classroom teaching positions earlier this month. On Friday, the MPS website published nine vacancies in primary education, 13 in secondary education and four in middle education. There were also three vacancies for special education teachers and six for electives, including art, computer science, Spanish and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).
Irby said positions in special education, math, science and foreign languages are the hardest to fill. He said MPS offers $5,000 hiring bonuses for hard-to-fill positions.
When MPS held an in-person hiring event on July 22, the district was able to hire more than 18% of those in attendance, Irby said.
Oktaha Superintendent Jerry Needham said the elementary has openings for a kindergarten teacher and a fifth-grade teacher.
“We don’t have the resumes or the applications to contact people. The job applications aren’t there,” Needham said. “Over the years, we’ve always had candidates for the job.”
He said Oktaha had struggled to find qualified teacher candidates for the past two or three years.
Fort Gibson Superintendent Scott Farmer said it has become harder to find certified teachers every year for the past 10 years.
“We have to start moving that needle the other way,” he said, adding that there seems to be a lot of uncertainty this year.
“The Legislature no longer earmarked revenue, and it’s a political year, people weren’t comfortable moving,” Farmer said. “I think the Legislature needs to keep pushing education forward to pay teachers what they’re worth and make it a respected business.”
Districts rely more on alternative certification or hire teachers pending certification from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
Madewell says the district has five or six teachers going through an alternative certification. For example, someone with a degree in criminal justice wants to teach elementary school, or someone may have a degree in psychology but not education, he said.
“What we have are various certifications,” he said.
Irby said the district has 38 emergency certifications, up from 49 for the 2022 school year.
Puckett said nine teachers are undergoing emergency certification at Hilldale.
“They’re not all new. You can have an emergency certification for over a year. It just means they haven’t passed all the testing requirements yet to get a teaching certificate,” said said Hilldale.
Hilldale’s website listed an opening for a middle and high school librarian, but there were no certified applicants, Puckett said.
“So we’ll have to ask the state to deregulate us on a librarian unless we can find one,” he said. “I’ve been at Hilldale since, this is my 25th year, and we’ve never had to fire a high school librarian before. So we’re in uncharted waters to do things that we don’t want to do.”